Holidays often mean spending family gatherings around the dinner table to enjoy favorite foods and traditions. Meal times are enjoyable social times, but when health issues affect one’s ability to safely swallow or lack of coordination and cognitive challenges make getting food where it belongs a difficult task, these enjoyable times can become embarrassing and stressful. With a little thoughtful pre-planning and creative adjustment to some old family favorites, joy can return to the dinner table.
Swallowing related issues:
If you are expecting a loved one with a modified diet around your holiday table check first with whomever knows the exact type of consistency they can have.
* If they need to stay away from thin liquid that is an easy thing to cut out of your holiday menu.
*Keep meats soft and easy to chew.
*Have soft easy to chew vegetable options (such as mashed potatoes or cooked broccoli).
Visual and Coordination issues:
*Make sure there is contrast between the color of the plate, the napkin, and the table cloth. Sometimes things can get lost when the plate and tablecloth are the same color.
*Consider more finger foods. Say good-bye to utensils, but keep the independence and dignity. Try grinding up some favorites to make poppers (ex. meatballs or turkey and stuffing) or savory muffin cups (ex. eggs, cheese, and sausage), try pinwheels with meat and soft cheese and mini quiches.
*Miniature versions of food items are often better than trying to cut up larger items.
*Consider small tarts instead of pies.
*Try apple pie fixin’s wrapped in a crescent roll.
*Use cake pops instead of cake.
*Cookies and brownie type desserts are easy to handle and keep on hand.
If large gatherings are overwhelming and distracting, consider paring down and meeting in smaller groups, or have a quiet room where a few people eat together away from the larger group.
For the messy eaters, consider festive aprons instead of bibs.
Allow time for proper chewing and swallowing before asking questions.
Allow for grazing throughout the day and don’t stress about “clean plates” at meal time over the Holidays.
Last of all, enjoy your family and loved ones this Holiday season.
The book, Learning to Speak Alzheimer's: A Groundbreaking Approach for Everyone ...By Joanne Koenig Coste has a chapter on finger foods which can also be read online by visiting this link.
The Alzheimer’s Society of the UK has a helpful list of finger foods by clicking here.